I’m passionate about education as a means to change the world for the better,” says Shelby Dennis, the new principal of Swigert International School starting this fall. Dennis, a Stapleton resident since 2003, has worked at Swigert as a literacy specialist, instructional coach and assistant principal.
Swigert currently serves 695 students, from early childhood education to fifth-grade. Dennis’s goals for the school include supporting teachers and engaging students in more consistent social action in the community.
“I’ll support teachers as they refine our curriculum to meet students’ needs, and I’ll help to pull in resources. I’ll engage students in more activities like making packets for the homeless, recycling days, and drives to save endangered species.”
Another goal is to ensure that standards are met in the common core areas, including language and math. “With 30 kids in a classroom, meeting every student’s needs can be a challenge. But we meet every kid where they are.”
Dennis brings both classroom and leadership experience to the job. She got her master’s degree in education policy and worked as a policy analyst for several years before entering the teaching profession. “I worked with legislatures across the country on funding and other issues. I realized that I didn’t know what teachers were facing on the ground, so I changed my course and taught language arts and social studies for several years. Once I started working in schools, I decided I liked it better so I stayed. My background means that I understand what’s going on at both the teacher and systemic levels.”
She discovered her passion for elementary literacy. “I was trained as an elementary reading specialist and became a reading interventionist, supporting kids in a small group environment to raise their skills to their grade level. I’m passionate about it because when kids read at grade level they can access information that enables them to be part of a civic-minded society.”
Shelby is married to Kurt Dennis, principal at McAuliffe International School. The couple has two daughters, ages 12 and 8. “We try to limit the education talk at home, but we are both super passionate about it,” she says.